Nordics-Russia issues escalate

Officials from the five countries sign a joint declaration against Russia increasing her military capability

Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / Wikimedia Commons A Russian military honor guard.

Photo: U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley / Wikimedia Commons
A Russian military honor guard.

Michael Sandelson & Sarah Bostock
The Foreigner

Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland are to widen their military cooperation. Sweden and Finland are the only countries who are not members of NATO.

Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and Finnish Defense Ministers—Ine Eriksen Søreide, Nicolai Wammen, Peter Hultqvist, and Carl Haglund, respectively—as well as Iceland’s Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, announce their intentions in an op-ed Norwegian national daily Aftenposten has published.

Terming Russia’s conduct as “representing the gravest challenge to European security,” the ministers say that aggression towards Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea are “violations of human rights and other international agreements.”

The security situation in the Nordic Countries’ neighboring areas has deteriorated markedly in the last year, according to them.

And despite the region being predominantly stable, the ministers say that, “we must be prepared to face possible crises or incidents. We must ascertain that it is no longer business as usual, and now have a new normal state [of play] to relate to.”

“They [Russia’s leaders] have shown that they are prepared to make practical and effective use of military means in order to reach their political goals, even when this involves violating principles of international law,” reads the declaration’s text.

“The Russian military act in a challenging way along our borders, and there have been several border infringements regarding Baltic Sea countries. What is particularly disturbing is the fact that Russian military aircraft have behaved in a manner that has posed a direct danger to civilian air traffic.”

The five ministers also cite Russia’s increased intelligence gathering, and that the nation’s propaganda and political maneuvering contribute “to sowing discord between the countries and organizations such as NATO and the EU.”

This new agreement’s key points include more joint exercises; joint industrial cooperation, including within the defense sector; joint exchange of intelligence information; and joint processing of cyber-material. It also includes increased cooperation with Baltic countries.

Defense analyst Professor Janne Haaland Matlary, part of an expert group advising Norwegian Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide, believes the Russians could construe what the Nordic Ministers see as being aggressive.

She believes there may be “negative reactions from the Russian side.” At the same time, her opinion is that the text will achieve a more credible deterrent being formed.

Aftenposten’s own translation of the op-ed can be read at www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/uriks/Russian-aggression-Nordic-states-extend-their-military-cooperation-7975109.html.

The announcement of the deal comes almost three weeks after Russia warned Denmark that their ships could become nuclear targets if they join NATO’s missile defense shield.

“I do not think that the Danes fully understand the consequences if Denmark joins the US-led missile defense shield,” Russian Ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin told Jyllands-Posten. “If that happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles.”

Denmark has announced they would contribute radar capacity on some of its available warships to the missile shield, equipping available ships.

“Denmark would be part of the threat against Russia. It would be less peaceful and relations with Russia will suffer. It is, of course, your own decision—I just want to remind you that your finances and security will suffer. At the same time Russia has missiles that certainly can penetrate the future global missile defense system,” Britain’s The Telegraph reported.

Ambassador Vanin’s statement prompted a response from Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard, who said that this was “unacceptable.”

“Russia knows very well that NATO’s missile defense system is defensive and not targeted at [Russia]. We disagree with Russia on many important things, but it is important that the tone between us remains as positive as possible,” Lidegaard declared.

His statement echoes the one Danish Defense Minister Nicolai Wammen made when Denmark first publicized the country’s contribution to NATO’s facility. He said that the initiative was not targeted at Russia, but “rogue states, terrorist organizations, and others who would have the capacity to fire missiles at Europe and the United States.”

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antanov asserted his nation’s intentions were opposite to those Ambassador Mikhail Vanin had stated. Deputy Minister Antanov issued a statement the same day as the Ambassador’s.

“We are not seeking confrontation with the alliance, and we favor the development of cooperation,” it is reported he the told Russian news agency Interfax.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the April 17, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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